This commericial a disgusting example of everything that is wrong about pharmaceutical advertisements. It appeals to viewers’ vanity and insecurity – which we all possess – in order to sell a dangerous drug. The drug advertised, Stelara (a Johnson & Johnson product), causes cancer. The FDA warning label for Stelara notes that it can cause cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, prostate, melanoma and breast and cancers, each of which can lead to death. It suppresses the immune system and leaves those who take it susceptible to dangerous infections, which can also lead to death.
Apparently it needs to be said, because there isn’t uproar and disgust in the general public over this wretched ad (and others like it for immunosuppressive drugs)–it is WRONG to utilize the same slimy sales techniques used to sell cosmetics in order to sell dangerous drugs that can severely hurt people and lead to their death. It is wrong to prey on people’s vanity and insecurity in order to sell them something that can hurt or even kill them. It is wrong to promote the frivolous and inappropriate use of a dangerous drug.
A drug like Stelara, that suppresses the immune system and can cause cancer, should not be used lightly and it is not even remotely appropriate to use it in order to have clearer skin. Just listen to the ad, “In a medical study, seven out of ten Stelara patients saw at least 75% clearer skin at twelve weeks.” Look at the model living a glamorous lifestyle, being adored, and flaunting her perfect skin, hair and body. This ad isn’t about helping people with plaque psoriasis, it’s about vanity and aspiration. It’s about selling a product and greed. It is not appropriate, and it even crosses the line of being wrong, to use manipulation and vanity to sell pharmaceuticals–especially pharmaceuticals that can cause cancer and death.
As is the case with all pharmaceutical ads, the risks associated with using Stelara are downplayed. At the end of the ad, after the marketers have thoroughly convinced the viewers (at least on a subconscious level) that if only they took Stelara they would look like the glamorous model in the commercial, a list of the most severe adverse effects is given. These risks include lowering one’s ability to fight infections, increasing one’s risk of cancer, headaches, seizures, vision problems, serious allergic reactions, and it is also stated that patients should, “tell your doctor if you, or anybody in your house needs or has recently received a vaccine.”
Do other people find that warning about not being around people who have recently been vaccinated to be concerning? It certainly piqued my interest when I first heard it. It made me wonder, “What is THAT about??” It made me wonder WHY people who are on Stelara shouldn’t be around those who have recently been vaccinated.
The written warning label for Stelara goes into a little more detail. It states, “People who take STELARA® should not receive live vaccines. Tell your doctor if anyone in your house needs a vaccine. The viruses used in some types of vaccines can spread to people with a weakened immune system, and can cause serious problems. You should not receive the BCG vaccine during the one year before taking STELARA® or one year after you stop taking STELARA®.”
Live vaccines include MMR (measles, mumps and rubella combined), chickenpox, nasally administrated flu, and rotavirus vaccines.
Additionally, recent studies have revealed that the whooping cough / pertussis vaccine can be spread from those who are vaccinated to those who are not vaccinated. A story published in the New York Times noted that, “’When you’re newly vaccinated (with the whooping cough / pertussis vaccine) you are an asymptomatic carrier, which is good for you, but not for the population,’ said Tod J. Merkel, the lead author of the study, who is a researcher in the Office of Vaccines Research and Review in the Food and Drug Administration.”
There is nothing okay about a vaccine spreading the disease that it is supposed to protect against. It is entirely indefensible. If a vaccine spreads disease it should be removed from the market. Try again, pharma companies that make live and whooping cough / pertussis vaccines. Not all vaccines spread the diseases that they are trying to prevent, so there must be some techniques and technologies that can keep that from occurring. Make it so, because endangering those who have suppressed immune systems is not acceptable.
Immune system suppressing drugs like Stelara, Humira, Enbrel, Remicade and others, are used by millions of people every day (it is estimated that 20% of the American population has an autoimmune disease, the diseases that these cancer-causing drugs are supposed to make more manageable). Everyone on an immunosuppressive therapy has a weakened immune system and is susceptible to catching a disease from someone who has recently received a live vaccine (or the pertussis/whooping cough vaccine). However, the people taking immune-suppressive drugs like Stelara aren’t the only ones who have compromised immune systems. Pregnant woman have compromised immune systems, so do people who are HIV positive or have AIDS, people going through chemotherapy, and many others.
The combination of live, virus containing, vaccines, along with a large portion of the population taking immunosuppressive drugs, may make the spread of diseases throughout the US population more common in the future. Unvaccinated people will be blamed, but perhaps more of the blame should sit with the pharmaceutical companies that are making billions off of suppressing people’s immune systems ($6.1 billion in immunosuppressive drugs like Stelara were sold in 2012 alone) and selling live virus vaccines.
Projections of diseases being spread through a population that is immune-suppressed are conjecture. It is not conjecture, however, that dangerous drugs are being sold via immoral marketing techniques. If it were demanded that there be truth in advertising, Tony’s story would be the advertisement one would see for Stelara:
Though Tony’s story is tragic, at least it is real. Pharmaceutical advertisements are not real. We all know, on some level, that pharmaceutical advertisements are not real. Perhaps it’s time we get angry about these types of commercials. Anger may even lead to change. At the very least, it’s time to get educated about the real risks associated with heavily marketed medications. The risks are real. The ads are not.
About the Author: Lisa Bloomquist was “Floxed” on her 32nd birthday by Cipro, a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. After 2 years of battling the mysterious health ailments that come with an adverse reaction to a fluoroquinolone, she has fought her way back to health. She is now fighting for recognition of the harm that these drugs can cause and hoping to help those who are suffering from them through their fluoroquinolone induced illness to find recovery. Her web site, Floxie Hope, highlights stories of hope and recovery. Mito Madness, also started by Lisa, focuses on the absurdity of ignoring the role of mitochondria in forming disease models.
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